Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
When I open a restaurant one day in the future, I want the service style to be just like what you get at Mr Tulk. The staff here are young and fun, and on the surface, they seem to be extremely relaxed - thankfully, this casual nature does not equal poor, inattentive service. Have a closer look at the movements of any of the staff here, and you'll find they're going fast, watching the room, talking to themselves about what needs to happen next.
The view from our table: The entrance to Mr Tulk on the left, and to the State Library on the right; further down the room, guests can grab a coffee and something small to eat and sit at one of the bar stools. Note the man in the grey top with a menu in front of his face: that's our waiter, deliberately jumping and dancing to get in my picture.
Caesar salad with white anchovy and poached egg
Smoked salmon bruschetta with onions, capers and creme fraiche
A simple dish, but a delicious one, with a generous helping of fresh smoked salmon, served with a twist: creme fraiche rather than the commonly used Philadelphia cream cheese, and pickled, deliciously vinegar-y slices of red onion.
Both times I have been to Mr Tulk, service and food have been flawless - I really have nothing critical to say about the venue and highly recommend it as a great, friendly place to have a coffee or something quick to eat in between whatever it is you're doing in the city. Mr Tulk is open till 5pm Monday-Thursday and till 4pm Saturday (closed Sundays), but on Friday nights they close at 9pm and host happy hours and fish specials - something I am keen to experience.
(Apologies for the lack of prices accompanying the dishes in this post. Dishes at Mr Tulk are around $10-$16)
Saturday, March 27, 2010
From Eat (Almost) Anything at Least Once, the Fried Eggs - a dish that doesn't look particularly exciting, but simple and probably some people's idea of a perfect, basic breakfast.
The dish that Bf received: apparently the same dish, but presented in an appalling manner, unlike the neat, clean stack above, and we assume the kitchen ran out of the lokaniko sausage as there were a few pieces but most of the meat served was bacon. (This was not explained to us at all when the waitress delivered the meal).
Finding this photo was very interesting for me as I had already done a whole blog post on how Demitri's delivered a few great dishes, but failed to keep up that same high standard. It's just incredible to me that the same dish can be served to two customers so differently - one presented quite nicely in a stack and the other, an unappealing mess - within the space of less than a month.
Monday, March 22, 2010
The Essential Ingredient, Prahran;
St. Ali, South Melbourne
Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Eat.Drink.Blog food bloggers conference. I was one of 45 bloggers who came together at the drool-worthy foodies store, The Essential Ingredient, went upstairs to their demonstration kitchen and discussed all things blogging - from how and why we blog, making money, ethics, and photography, to copyright and other legalities, being more social in the blogging community and SEO.
Receiving this invitation was thrilling for me as realised I would get to mingle with some of my favourite food bloggers, such as Ed from tomatom.com.au and Claire from Melbourne Gastronome. When I arrived it was evident that many of the bloggers knew each other from online or from previous events, and as a relative newcomer to the food blogging scene it was a relief to find each and every person was friendly and welcoming.
There were so many highlights, so many funny moments throughout the day, and one was the Twitter broadcast that was projected up onto the wall. Even if you didn't make it to the event, if you followed #eatdrinkblog or #eatdrinkblog2010 yesterday you probably felt like you were there as we furiously tweeted everything that was said, as well as updates on the temperature of the room and our current hunger/wanting booze status.
Lunch was provided by St Ali - a selection of sandwiches from which I chose the smoked salmon and chicken package.
We returned from lunch for the "how to be social" panel which I found particularly interesting as a fairly new blogger. Armed with a fat notebook I took down notes from the experienced bloggers and particularly took home this message: Be involved in the community - be active online as well as in the 'real world'. Interact with your fellow bloggers. If you are using your blog to simply upload and update information, your blog will only go so far.
Next stop: the food photography exhibition, sponsored by SBS, which featured some stunning pieces I'd love to have hanging on my walls - including the ice cream photo by the lovely Linda from buttersugarflour.com. We were served cocktails in brown paper bags and old poison bottles courtesy of Der Raum - I wasn't such a fan of a chamomile cocktail, but we all agreed that the beetroot juice mixture served in a wine glass was delicious.
After two hours of drinking and mingling we all had rumbling tummies and I know I was very excited when Ed yelled "FOOD!" - time to enter the very cool ST. ALi for a six course "Bloggers Banquet".
I ate scallops, oysters, wontons, Chinese broth, mushrooms, kingfish head, lamb rump and fresh fruit with chili sugar. Michael from myachinghead.net told me that he basically lives at this restaurant; I can see why. Each dish was stunningly presented, perfectly portioned and the flavours very balanced. It was an incredible meal, accompanied by a very passionate and knowledgeable waitress and beautiful fellow bloggers to chat to. I would consider a large majority of my friends and family to be very into food, but these people are absolute food geeks, and it was such a pleasure to be surrounded by people who also wanted to keep talking and talking about food and wine and coffee.
To top it all off, us bloggers woke this morning to discover our event had made it into the "Melbourne Life" section of The Age:
The Age, Monday 22nd March
The event was fantastic and it was so exciting to be a part of the first one. From it, I gained invaluable knowledge from long-time bloggers, met wonderful people who share my passion and got to eat some incredible food. I thank all those responsible for bringing the idea to life and look forward to next year's event.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
"We found out that we won Best Breakfast and we ran, and ran, and ran".
When mum and I visited Demitri's Feast on a Thursday morning, we found our waitress's description of her reaction to the award a little strange, but we liked her nonetheless. It had been two days since Epicure had announced that the Cheap Eats 2010 award for Best Breakfast had been given to this graffitied Greek cafe in Swan Street, and we were indeed enjoying our breakfasts.
The clientele was really interesting. There was a table of two business people who, it seems, the waitress suspected them of visiting in order to steal ideas; there was a young man having a working breakfast by himself; and a grandmother and her three year old granddaughter who, after sitting at the table for a few minutes exclaimed, "Where's my coffee!?!" The courtyard is tiny, as is the whole cafe, and it's a really interesting place to (subtly) people-watch.
Poached eggs with ouzo and dill cured salmon and spinach ($15.50)
Scrambled eggs with goats cheese feta and oregano roasted tomatoes on toast ($13.50)
Normally, I hate scrambled eggs that look like this: folds of egg rather than soft "clouds", however these eggs were creamy and rich and paired so well with the goat's feta - a cheese so much more authentically Greek and creamy than anything I've ever bought from a supermarket or even a deli.
Our waitress, in clearing our plates, knocked over the vibrant blue glass water bottle that sat on our table, smashing it on the ground and our feet. She managed to recover from that quite well. She was apologetic but confident enough to remain positive and make a joke out of the situation, and as the whole courtyard turned to see what had happened in the corner, the young man packed in tight next to us quipped: "It's still the Best Breakfast".
What a difference a weekend can make. I brought Bf to Demitri's on a Saturday morning. Again, we sat outside in the courtyard (note the little chairs made from old feta tins, above), but this time we waited inside by the coffee machine as staff ignored us and failed to even acknowledge that we were there. When we finally made eye contact with one, we were told "I think there's a table out the back, go out there".
Fried eggs with free range bacon, lokaniko sausage and oven roasted tomatoes ($16)
This was Bf's dish, and when I told him halfway through his meal that the cafe had won Best Breakfast I think he thought I was joking. His food was just really average, and the presentation was pretty poor.
Omeletta - Greek omelette with lokaniko sausage, potatoes and kefalograviera ($14.50)
My omelette was pretty good - nothing to rave about though. The sausage was quite thick and I think it would have had a more enjoyable texture if it was cut finely.
While we were eating, a young male waiter asked a table to leave the cafe as he had another group waiting to be seated. I understand the importance of table turnover in a busy restaurant - you want to get as many people through as you can. At my work, however, we pre-warn customers of this during busy times - for example, letting customers know that on a packed Friday night, they can only have the table for an hour and a half. If customers know this at the start, they're usually fine with it. If they find out at the end of the meal, when they're relaxing for a moment, letting their food settle, and you're trying to hustle them out the door, it can be an unpleasant end to what might have been an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Bf was absolutely appalled by this place. I left feeling less negative because I had already had a great experience and know what Demitri's are capable of; it's just a shame that the floor really can't cope once it starts to get busy.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Last night I went to see a night of conversation, hosted by Catherine Deveny, in which she tackled "some of the hard topics" (food, literature, sex) with guests Marieke Hardy and Matt Preston. When S told me about the event I was incredibly excited; three fabulous writers whom we both admire, in the one room, speaking intelligently and about interesting topics. When I thought about what other 19-year-olds might be doing with their night I felt like a bit of a geek, and I enjoyed that feeling; it was so nice to do something so different. The demographic was mixed, with people of all ages in attendance.
The writers sat on white wicker chairs around a table piled with books, water and white wine. It was relaxed, as though they were in a restaurant having a typical conversation and we were flies on the wall listening in. The conversation in general was fascinating and funny, but from a foodies point of view, it was the way not only Matt, but Marieke and Catherine too, spoke about food that was thrilling. They spoke of the importance of food in everything that we do; that it is much more than fuel. As Matt described, it is what brings people together, and what is there no matter what we are doing: attending a funeral, coming together at Christmas time, at every rite of passage we go through. It was absolutely wonderful to attend an event where interesting people spoke passionately and intelligently about food, among other things, and if such an event comes up again I would highly recommend it to everyone.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tucked away between dry cleaners and newsagents on Auburn Road, P+MJ consists of three distinct "layers": as you first walk in, the vibe is casual, fast, takeaway. Walk through to the next room and it becomes instantly more grown up, perfect for a cosy dinner (the private dining room upstairs has just been opened and provides an intimate space for 12-18 patrons). S and I kept walking out to the cute little courtyard, a quiet, pebble stone haven.
"What are you choosing between?"
S was having breakfast - I was tempted, especially when I saw some of the P+MJ 'classics' like smashed avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms, marinated feta and torn basil on wholegrain toast, poached 'googie' optional - and I had a feeling this was a place that would do breakfasts well. But this blog could so easily become about nothing but breakfast with how often I crave a meal out in the morning, and that's not the aim, so with ravenous in mind I stuck with the "Lunchy Things" menu.
Risotto of pea and pancetta, herbed marscapone ($19.90)
A bowl of creamy, quite runny rice. The flavour was nice, but it was nothing stunning. The herbed marscapone added a nice kick and would have been better spread throughout the whole dish rather than lumped in the middle. The flavour of the pancetta was good but the little pieces of pork were hard, rather than the thin, melt in your mouth slices I was expecting.
Carman's bircher muesli with pear and cinnamon compote, honeyed yoghurt ($10.90)
S really enjoyed her Bircher; I'm not much of a muesli eater but I had a spoonful and it was creamy with a strong taste of fresh pear.
From a PR point of view, P+MJ are on fire. Their website and business cards are fabulous and continue with the cute theme that's found throughout the restaurant - blackboards on the walls with little messages of optimism, cute quotes on the menu ("...My tongue is smiling", claimed Mr Jones' 5 year old brother). Presentation of the restaurant itself is fabulous and service could not be faulted - the only flaw in the entire experience was my risotto and even that wasn't a 'flaw' as such, just a dish whose flavours were simply 'nice' and whose texture could have been improved.
Given how nice S's breakfast was, maybe breakfast and brunch is more their thing - I will be back to investigate this further.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Coda Bar and Restaurant
Basement, 141 Flinders Lane
Ph: 9650 3155
It's been seven months since I visited Coda with my ex-flatmate and her family, and still no review. The pictures remained in a draft post, along with so many other restaurant experiences I am yet to write up. All this time later, I remember I had a fabulous night and the food, beer and wine was fantastic, but it's been too long to remember specifics. Here, instead - inspired by Eating with Jack's Amnesty post - are pictures of the beautiful dishes we ate for your viewing pleasure.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
44 Rowena Parade
Ph: 03 9421 3262
When I think of those tiny little cafes and restaurants one sometimes discovers in Melbourne's many laneways, those hidden gems treasured by locals, I think of places with happy staff, fabulous food, consistently good coffee. I knew that to some Melbourne foodies, Rowena Parade was one such gem, so when I stumbled across it by accident I was expecting a unique, memorable breakfast experience.
First impressions were good. On a warm morning, the windows were wide open, and tables of what seemed like regular customers almost filled the room. The "cafe/milkbar/continental deli" has a Greek theme, with a huge picture of Santorini on one wall; above the counter, a big sign reads "Mamma's takeaway", and cute little messages are found all over the room (above the counter, a blackboard reminding patrons that "For every minute you're angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness"; beneath a bell, a stern warning to "Under no circumstances ring this bell").
We found a good selection of basic breakfast and lunch dishes on the menu and specials board, with a few traditional Greek dishes featured.
Kaski, from Neveska in Northern Greece: Roasted red peppers, cooked in tomato reduction, with fresh ricotta, fetta cheese and a hint of chili, served with organic Turkish toast ($8.50)
I considered a BELTAC (bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese - Rowena Parade's super take on the BLT) but decided I was having an "It's-too-early-for-eggs" morning so instead, my little ramekin of tomato and chili was an excellent start to the day. Yes, the presentation could have been better - the dish was a bit of a mess. But it was creamy and rich with a subtle kick of chili and went well with the Turkish bread.
Two free range eggs on Turkish toast ($7.00) with mushrooms, tomato, avocado ($2.50 each) and bacon ($3.00)
A simple big breakfast, and what a disappointment. Bf, a man who has no chef training and cooks beautiful creamy scrambled eggs at home, is constantly amazed at how often kitchens ruin breakfast. The eggs he was served were a dry, bland, solid lump. The sides consisted of a flavourless half tomato, extremely crisp (in fact, black) bacon (which was cooked to bf's liking - we both like our bacon very crispy - but we both agreed the kitchen was taking a risk here), the tiniest portion of an average tasting avocado, and some mushrooms which were the only decent thing about the meal. He was also served a warm strawberry milkshake.